Narendra Modi – The Man of the Hour

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Narendra Modi, perhaps one of the most polarizing figures in India political history. The name itself evokes hope and contempt at the same time subject to the listener. After all the man boasts of economic miracles under him which may or may not overshadow a glaring black spot, the 2002 Gujarat riots. It is imperative to talk about the riots which occurred 12 years ago whenever you talk about Modi. The hype around his anti-secular credentials means he will always have to carry this weight of persecution with him. The longest-serving chief minister of Gujarat, the most favorite Prime Ministerial candidate of the country has a charismatic persona which can woo most of his observers.

He is feared by a section of the society for his dictatorial attitude, so oft described by his biographers as a quality acquired during his childhood. His term in office has brought out his stubbornness, frustrating most of his colleagues. So much so that the party had to ban him from Gujarat to stop him from interfering in the erstwhile government, which he wasn’t even a part of. When he got the job of leading Gujarat, Gujarat was a relatively poor state, lacked infrastructure, rocked by religious tension every now and then and was recently overcoming a devastating earthquake. Under his leadership, the state underwent a major transformation. Growth shot up, agricultural production went through the roof and Gujarat became the only power-surplus state in the country. However, the ghost of the 2002 riots never left him. It is alleged that his decision to parade the bodies of the kar sevaks, who died in the Godhra train massacre, incited violence throughout the state. Some good Samaritans then knocked the doors of the Supreme Court for justice which instituted an SIT for the purpose. Since then, the SIT hasn’t found enough evidence to prosecute him and the Supreme Court has quashed petitions to review this inquiry. Must we, as so-called wise citizens, proclaim a man, acquitted by the Supreme Court, as guilty? Who are we to question the wisdom of the Courts?

What must be seen is that after 2002, in the last 12 years, there haven’t been mass murders and large-scale riots, which occurred so frequently in the religiously polarized state in yesteryear. Nothing can be obtained by harping on this subject and opening old wounds. Convictions have taken place unlike other riots and even prominent personalities have been jailed.

Some people see it fit to tarnish the reputation of a prominent and prospective leader vying for the top job. The fact remains that Modi projects perhaps the least malicious government after a disastrous UPA term. Foreign media criticizes us for prioritizing growth over secularism. The Congress government has shown that it is incapable and clueless when it comes to managing the economy. Nor does it occupy the moral high ground when it comes to secularism. It is pseudo-secular at best. It has no clues about inflation, CAD or GDP. So what option does the predominantly youth populace have. Do we sacrifice a better standard of living, jobs and economic growth because of an incident that took place 12 years ago? Do we hold responsible a person, with an immaculate growth record, for something that the Supreme Court believes he didn’t do? Shouldn’t we be held in contempt if we doubt the judgment of the Court? It is important to realize that as Indians are at a major crossroads in our life. A slowing economy must be revived soon enough for our billion plus population to prosper. It depends on the voters to choose the right man for the job. India has bigger fish to fry than harping on the past.

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Kashmir Conflict

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Kashmir, the valley with unparalleled beauty in the entire subcontinent, was often referred to as the Switzerland of the East by its last ruler Hari Singh. As the name suggests, Hari Singh was the Hindu ruler of Kashmir, ruling over a vastly predominant Muslim populace. Like many other princely states existing at the time of partition, Kashmir too refused to sign the Instrument of Accession to India and instead chose to remain independent. Pakistan nevertheless, was keen on securing this key state after losses of Hyderabad and Junagadh to India. Even after several persuasive attempts by the last Viceroy Mountbatten, Kashmir’s accession was never a done deal.

Hari Singh’s wish was to project Kashmir as a politically neutral and independent state. Kashmir’s beauty and the King’s ideology were both in sync with Switzerland. However, that was not to be. Pakistan believed that the Kashmiri Muslim would be in favour of acceding to Pakistan instead of India. Unlike Pakistan, India was established on secular lines and the fact that Kashmir composed mainly of Muslims was irrelevant to India. Under such circumstances, post-independence, Pakistan-backed tribals launched a guerilla attack on Kashmir which could not be countered by the erstwhile King. A dejected Hari Singh decided to ask for Indian military intervention on the condition that he would sign the Instrument of Accession. India grabbed the opportunity with both hands and soon an onslaught by the Indian army and local Kashmiri fighters pushed back the guerillas. Kashmir was on course to become a whole and sole part of the Indian Union but Nehru decided to seek UN intervention. As expected, the UN called for a ceasefire and a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiri populace. Its conditions were that Pakistan must back off from the region while India should REDUCE military presence in the region. Pakistan categorically denied to roll back its army and decided to hold on to the territory for India hadn’t pulled back its troops. It then blamed India for not being able to conduct a plebiscite.

The extent to which India pushed back these rebels is today known as the Line of Control (LOC). Today, Kashmir is divided into 3 parts, most of which is administered by India, a part falls under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and a minute area called Aksai Chin belonging to China. So who can claim Kashmir today? Legally, India has the right to the whole of Kashmir, administered by the erstwhile ruler Hari Singh as India holds Kashmir’s Instrument of Accession. Pakistan can perpetrate all kinds of violence it wishes to but the fact is India actually has the right to POK as well.

However, that said, are we morally or ethically justified in bringing Kashmir under our control? Even after the rulers of Junagadh and Hyderabad were ousted, a plebiscite was conducted. In Junagadh, the plebiscite was one-sided, in favour of India while in Hyderabad, it was not required seeing the massive support the Indian army received after ousting the Nizam. Why not apply the same rationale in Kashmir as well? We can argue all we want that the King decided to accede to the India Union however, a referendum is important to judge where the people stand. While we have constant military deployment in the region under AFSPA, we never seemed to care about the wishes of the Kashmiri. But the time for such a referendum is long gone. The Kashmir issue is here to stay and India must accept the fact that it has erred on several grounds. Like the BJP, many Indians are against conducting such a plebiscite and prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in favour of a referendum, is often criticized for such views.

India’s basic argument for not conducting a plebiscite was that Pakistan never vacated the territory it occupied. Though technically true, it doesn’t matter much as even our army stayed back in huge numbers. Nehru erred while taking the dispute to the UN which took a highly humanitarian view. In light of Indian (and even Kashmiri interests) the issue would have been best settled once the rebels were completely driven out and then a referendum was conducted. The argument that the Security Council tried to overcompensate against its Muslim biases is baseless. Fact of the matter is that even though we can legally lay claim on Kashmir, it isn’t ours in humanitarian terms. Overtime, anti-Indian sentiments have built up in parts of Kashmir. ISI backed terrorists have reduced but insurgency still remains as a major issue and it is finally the Kashmiri that suffers. The onus now lies on India to maintain peace and thwart all Pakistani attempts aimed at disruption and insurgency. Maintaining status quo is important and working towards abrogation of Article 370 is imperative.

Mountain out of a Molehill – Indian Speciality

Some may deny it, others conform to it, but it is certainly true that Indians love drama. The bigger (and more controversial), the better. Especially the Indian media, which often loves to bring to spotlight trivial issues. The media is able to do this because intolerance levels among Indians are sky-high. Simple figures of speech or analogies are considered blasphemous and hate speeches. While the media is least interested in reporting what someone actually commented, the most controversial statement is hammered into our minds over and over again as if that’s what a person actually meant. All of us realise that what we speak in common parlance can never be taken literally as that’s not what we ever meant. Do you ever take metaphors or idioms literally?

The first example would be of Kejriwal, when he said that once he came to power, he would imprison corrupt media. Apparently this is considered as a violation of the media’s freedom. Here’s what he actually said, “The whole media is sold out this time, it is a big conspiracy, it is a huge political controversy. If our government comes to power then we will set up an inquiry into this. And along with the media people, all will be sent to jail”. Here’s how the media projected it, “Kejriwal threatens to jail media”. No one cares to look beyond this or to certify that what he meant was actually what he spoke. Kejriwal talked about punishing paid media and this point is absolutely valid and worth imposing. How dare someone threaten freedom of the media? It cost Kejriwal in terms of media coverage for AAP.

Second instance is a more recent one. We can all agree that election campaigning turns personal swiftly and everyone takes jabs at each other (oh did I mean that they actually punch each other?). A Congress candidate from Saharanpur said, “UP is not Gujarat. There is only 4% Muslim population in Gujarat but in UP there are 22% Muslims here. I will fight against Narendra Modi because I know how to give a fitting reply to him. We will cut him into pieces.” What the media understood, “We will literally use swords and knives and chop a 3-time Chief Minister and a Prime Ministerial candidate into pieces despite the fact that he has Z+ security”. Did he really mean that he would kill Modi or was it just a figure of speech? No doubt what he said was aggressive but then that’s what all politicians have been saying including Modi. According to this logic, if you’ve “made a killing on the stock market”, you murdered a bunch of people on Dalal Street. No one is interested to know that he actually spoke in Hindi, wherein one uses a greater quantity of comparisons than English and it hardly means what is actually said. The BJP lapped up on an opportunity to criticise Congress, while their leaders are no different. It was the media who had a field day and generated TRPs.

Let’s then look at Amit Shah’s comments some days back, “This is the question of honour of Western UP. It is time for revenge now… batons, guns and swords belong to a bygone era. These days you take revenge by pressing the button (on the EVM).” But to the media, what it means is, “Amit Shah promotes communalism and wants to take revenge for the riots”. He specifically said that weapons belong to a bygone era, how much more clarity do you require? What he simply meant was that the people should take revenge against the parties which promoted such communal hatred and violence and instead vote for BJP. Congress jumped on this opportunity to nail him.

Finally, the most controversial twist presented by media was last year’s rape analogy made by CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, “”It is very easy to say that if you can’t enforce it (ban on betting), it’s like saying if you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it.” Sinha was speaking on corruption in sports in a conference. He talked about how enforcement agencies find it tough to ban betting. There was widespread call to legalise betting and Sinha said that the fact that we cannot control it doesn’t mean we mustn’t make laws against it. No doubt he used a controversial and somewhat insensitive analogy to underline his statement but it was blown out of proportion. The media presented it this way, “CBI Director says that if you can’t prevent rape enjoy it”. Sinha never endorsed such a practice. If anything, he was actually talking about the absurdity of legalising betting because you can’t enforce laws against and to make his point more clear supported it with a very absurd and impossible analogy of rape. Thus, he actually suggested that enjoying rape because you can’t stop it is absurd and illogical (insensitive as well). All the pseudo-feminists and political parties called for apologies and resignation, some even going as far as prosecuting him. Where were all these people when the topic of rape was presented in a comical manner in the movie 3 Idiots (speech given by Chatur on Teacher’s Day when the word Chamatkaar was replaced by Balaatkar). Even in this instance, the dialogues were intended for comical purposes but it had the potential of becoming a lot more controversial. Only because of the recent spotlight on rape, people get so offended by a simple analogy. We simply fail to look at the larger picture and the context in which the statements were made while believing the media blindly.

All this said, a politician or any other speaker must, after years of experience of such behavior of the media, realise that you need to be careful while speaking publicly. Analogies and figures of speech may sound funny and may prove a point more clearly but in a country like ours where intolerance levels run high, thinking twice before speaking is not such a bad idea. It is only because people are insensitive; the media finds it profitable to twist statements and present people in a bad light.

 

The Inception of India

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At the outset, I’d like to state this; India, as a country, is based on a faulty idea. The existence of India as a united nation should’ve been unimaginable. The people of the country were not united by a common tongue, religion or ideals. From ancient times, India had been divided into small territories ruled by resident dynasties and feudal lords. Although most of the northern part was under Mughal rule before the arrival of the British, rest of the country was reined by regional dynasties, much like the regional parties that rule these states even today. The only reason why we exist was because the British ruled the land completely and before leaving decided to brand us under a common flag.

Most countries are united by a common language. This is how Europe was divided and fought wars. People with the same mother tongue were assumed to be part of the same country. But when we look at India this is simply not the case. While we pride ourselves in the fact that we have 18 official languages, it is this difference which leads to discord. One cannot impose Hindi on Tamils nor can a Marathi expect to live in Kolkata without basic knowledge of Bengali. Hindi is the mode of communication in cosmopolitan areas and with the advent of English, language barriers are being diminished however this was not the case during independence. How could one expect a Gujarati and Bihari to unite under the same flag? Even though the language barriers were many, our founding fathers decided to unite all of us under the same banner.

Countries are also based on the basic ideal of religion. We needn’t go far for an evidence of this fact. Our very own nemesis, Pakistan is the best example. Most countries established on religious lines are Islamic. Nepal remains the sole Hindu nation of the world. Due to our backwardness and illiteracy, establishing a secular society should’ve been a humongous challenge and it remains so even today. While religious riots abound in our own backyard, our politicians happily wear the mask of secularism. Caste and creed is another line which divides the Indians into barbaric brutes even today. Even people with the same language and religion looked down upon their comrades as untouchables.

Probably the best evidence of the defective nature of our survival was the First War of Independence in 1857. Fought by the rebel British Army consisting of Indian soldiers, this war failed to realize its true potential due to the limited numbers and the uncoordinated nature of the uprising. How could a small European nation thousands of miles away defeat a nation as vast as ours (in terms of population)? Lack of unity comes to mind. Even after this, while most of India united under Mahatma Gandhi, rebels like Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose were still around, trying to pull the country in different directions, ideologically.

One might argue that how the United States with its diversity manages to do better than us on most fronts? A country like US was based on unified ideals and opened its doors to immigrants only after achieving relative stability. The issue of race led to a Civil War there too which denotes how the human race is incapable of accepting other individuals as equals.

On almost all counts, the people of India are diverse. We do not understand the culture of other states. We fail to grasp their language. When India gained independence, political analysts worldwide lamented the possibility of having another country which would soon descend into anarchy and military dictatorship. Democracy wasn’t the way of life for Indians during independence and it still isn’t the right choice of government. What we required was an authoritarian government at the outset. Not a dictatorship but a totalitarian regime. Indians should not have been allowed the kinds of freedom they were with the kind of education and background that they had. Indira Gandhi’s emergency was actually commendable for its governance record, albeit it should be condemned for its unethical implementation.

So why are we still the largest democracy and hold free and fair elections, the biggest exercise on earth, every five years successfully? There is no answer to this. We have proved wrong all those forecasters who wrote us off. The neighbouring Pakistan which was established on common lines had up until recently never had a government completing its full term in office and descended in military dictatorship quite often. What unites a Dravidian with a Punjabi is unknown. Why have we not descended into anarchy is not quite answerable. But the fact is, by some margin, we are one of the most diverse countries on this planet. We may eat, pray, talk, live and vote differently but we still sing the same anthem, worship the same flag and get buried in the same soil. We may have nothing in common but we still fight for the same nation on the borders when external forces threaten our existence. So although we weren’t supposed to be united as long as we have been, we continue to prove the rest of the world wrong and in a subtle way we corroborate the statement, “Unity in Diversity”.